A day trip to India…

posted in: Nina Sabnani, Sandhya Rao | 33

What with the wonderful postcards we’ve been receiving and the stories of the postcards you’ve been making, writing and simply enjoying we’ve been bitten by the travel bug! Seeing images from all these beautiful places in our own country and around the world has left us wanting to explore our planet a little more. And as I like a challenge, this weekend M and I decided to day trip to India.

Well, day trip to almost-India….

We packed our bags with essential supplies for the journey (chocolate buttons), checked our passports and tickets, and set off to explore the sights, sounds and smells of India as best we could. How was it possible that we could leave home after breakfast, and be back by mid afternoon and still manage all of this? Well, we explored India as she appears in our own city!

We live in one of the largest cities in the UK outside of London, and there is a large Indian diaspora community to be found here. We took the bus to one part of town which is famous for its Indian community and started to explore.

We saw some amazing “Indian” architecture…

… visited a temple (whilst we were looking at the building we were kindly invited in and offered a meal!)

… tried some Indian sweets

… marvelled at the jewellery

… and visited a sari department store

… which we didn’t manage to leave empty-handed!

This wonderful journey and day of exploration was inspired by Sandhya who incredibly generously sent our family a copy of a fantastic book, My mother’s sari by Sandhya Rao and Nina Sabnani.

This lovely book is a short but loving eulogy on the comfort and possibilities bound up in the smell, texture, colours and warmth of an item associated with a person you love. The book made us all laugh (a sari is good for an emergency nose wipe!) and it made us nod in recognition (a sari – or in our case a shawl – is great for playing with, hiding in and snuggling up under.)

The mixed media illustrations have a fresh and modern feel – the use of photos of saris alongside fun-loving children drawn simply in acrylic worked exceptionally well for us. Without being heavily laden with culture-specific references the images “translated” well – making it easier (I believe) for M and J to see the children in the images, although from another country, as just like them, playing the same sorts of games and getting up to the same sorts of mischief.

Although in once sense very culturally specific, the “message” of this book is wonderfully universal – about a child’s love for his or her mother and how even just the sense of being close can bring such comfort and security.

The endpages of My mother’s sari give an illustrated step by step guide to putting on a sari – and we used these instructions to dress me when we got home! We had a lot of fun playing hide-in-mum’s-sari and wrap-mummy-up-in-her-sari-so-she-can’t-get-away… So Sandhya, even though you are very many miles away from us, you ensured we had a wonderful day together full of learning and lots of laughter. Neither M nor I can wait to go to India again!

We’ve been dancing to a lot of Indian music since we returned home. Here’s some of what we’ve been listening to:

  • The BBC Asian Network (a digital radio statio)
  • The Rough Guide To The Music Of India

  • And here are some other activities we want to get up to inspired by our mini holiday in almost-India:

  • We’re going to make Chicken Coondapuri, a dish famous in the state of Karnataka, where Sandhya lives. If we could, I’d love to get hold of these thali plates for the girls to eat out of!
  • We’re going to try to learn some Indian kids’ songs – Mama Lisa has a great selection to get us going!
  • I think M would love to play this spice game!
  • And later in the year, when our roses our out I hope we’ll make a rose lassi like this one,from Smita guest posting on The Crafty Crow

  • Our hearts go out today to Sandhya, full of gratitude for her generosity and the inspiration she gave us to explore a little of our own city and a culture I’d love to know more about.

    It would be great to hear what other Indian kids’ books people have enjoyed, and also to read about what countries you could visit in your own home towns – I think we’re planning on visiting China next and then perhaps Somalia!

    33 Responses

    1. Zoe @ Playing by the book

      Hi Harriet, Thanks for the recommendation! I see from the author’s website that the book has received quite some acclaim:

      *An ALA Notable Book, 2007.

      *A Selection of the Junior Library Guild

      *Selected for New York Public Library’s 2006 “100 TITLES FOR READING AND SHARING”

      *One of San Francisco Chronicle’s “BEST BOOKS OF THE SEASON”


      *”Lively and often hilarious tales…We can only hope that Younguncle will return.”–The Horn Book

      Younguncle Comes to Town

    2. magg, red ted art

      Am loving your “Trip to India” – what a great idea – seeing, touching, tasting and smelling is believing! And I LOVE Saris! So nice you got one… πŸ™‚ Aaaah.. the things to look forward to with my two!!!


    3. Zoe

      Hi Maggy, I could have spent all day trying on saris – it was like being in a sweet shop for me – such wonderful colours and textures. And what was so nice was the shop assistant was thrilled that M and I were so excited by the saris – she was really pleased we were interested in them and wanted to try them on.

    4. Kitten Muffin

      We lived for eight years in Rusholme in Manchester, so these photos make me homesick for that place πŸ™‚ We always visit when we get back to the UK, next time hopefully the kids will be a little more into the cuisine. I so want them to love Dosa the way I do. Did you try any jalebis at the sweet shop? Those are so yum!

    5. Zoe

      Hi Kitten Muffin, aah Rusholme – funny you should mention that, particularly this week as it was in Rusholme I met my husband to be, 10 years ago this week! We were both at a university conference there and yes, we did eat quite a lot of indian food that week! We didn’t have any jalebis with M on saturday – she was a bit taken aback by their appearance πŸ™‚ We had lots of sticky condensed milk blocks that were very delicious.

    6. sandhya

      Thanks for a wonderful review, Zoe. I am glad M, J and you enjoyed the book. I am really touched.

    7. iHanna

      what a wonderful adventure you had! And I’m so glad your postcard swap is going along well! Postcards rock!

    8. Kristine

      Hi Zoe,

      What a fabulous way to spend a day. A holiday we can all afford.

      Thanks for asking after me. Yes I’m still here and everything is fine. I had major computer (send it away to be fixed) problems and I’ve been really busy. I am missing reading everyone’s blogs more so shall be back soon. I enjoyed catching up on what you’ve been up to over the past week!

    9. Zoe

      Hi Kristine,
      Glad to hear you are ok – I was worried! Am looking forward to your next blog post πŸ™‚

      Hi iHanna,
      The success was in no small part due to your help before hand so thankyou for that – your advice definitely prepared me well!

    10. caroline @ learningparade

      Hi Zoe, what a day full of colour and learning! I’m so sad that I missed the postcard swap; I’m back at work full time now and I’m not ashamed to admit it is so difficult trying to juggle everything – blogging has been squished!! Stopping by here was a welcomed break tonight, thank you! πŸ™‚

    11. Malar for Tulika Books

      This is Malar from Tulika Books, the publisher of My Mother’s Sari. Found you through Sandhya’s blog.
      It was wonderful to hear about the journey of exploration the book sent you on. I would love to feature excerpts from this post on our blog (http://tulikapublishers.blogspot.com)with the beautiful pictures of your children reading from the book and of you looking absolutely gorgeous in a sari:) May I?
      Warm regards,

      • Zoe

        Hi Malar, – of course! I’ll email you separately with the hi-res photos if that would help πŸ™‚

    12. Choxbox

      What a lovely post! If you ever come to the ‘real’ India, give us a hoot, we’d love to have you over. Several of us London pals have come over and loved it.

      I used to wear a saree and celebrate Diwali in my kids’ school in London every year – the saree always got lots of compliments!

      Interestingly not many women in my generation wear the sari any more, esply in the cities. You’d find us more in salwar/kameezes or western outfits and/or a combination. I’d once met a Belgian lady at a conference in Chennai (a city in South India) and she was puzzled as to why this was the case -after all wasn’t the sari so elegant? Hmm. My mom’s generation still is mostly into saris said I but I don’t have a complete answer for your Q. Anyway I got her a copy of My Mother’s Sari and she loved it!

    13. Choxbox

      *give us a shout

      the travails of ‘multi-tasking’ – was typing a comment to a friend who was pulling my leg!

      • Zoe

        Hi Choxbox,
        I’m sure if we did manage to meet up we would have a “hoot”. I suspect we could have quite some fun together! I would love to wear salwar/kameezes – I looked at quite a few of them too at the weekend, and saw some that were SO beautiful. And flattering! (what more could I want!)

    14. sandhya

      Hi, Zoe,
      This is a link to the post through which Malar found your post. Hope you enjoy reading it.


      Agree with Choxbox that most women of my generation prefer salwar-kameeze or jeans-tshirt to a sari. A sari is a beautiful garment and one size suits all. It covers a horde of flaws in the feminine body, and looks very elegant. But a sari is also somewhat restrictive to free and brisk movement, what with having to take care of the “pallu”: the hanging end. On special occasions, though, out come the saris in all their glory. And there is such a variety to choose from in India.

    15. Telugumom


      This is my first time here. Very nice blog. Looks like you guys had fun and I should say you look really good in the Indian outfits πŸ™‚

    16. Choxbox

      @sandhya: but then look at all the women in our moms’ generation – they even jumped into running buses/trains wearing sarees πŸ™‚

    17. Natalie

      How awesome it is that you could visit India without traveling for hours πŸ™‚ I have to talk to my Indian coworkers when I am ready for our Indian theme – I am certain that they will be delighted to share their homes and their authentic cuisines with us. And I will make sure to look for this book!

    18. Ian @ Tidy Books

      Excellent idea, I love adventures like this. And I love days when my son visits all parts of the world without leaving his school grounds. Might forward them this idea.

    19. Annie

      Thanks for this recommendation, Zoe! I’ve placed a library hold on it, and am sure Eleanor will be thrilled when it comes in.

    20. Leela Soma

      Loved your ‘Day Trip to India’ Wish more people would undertake such a wonderful journey in their one hometowns. A true inspiration.


      • Zoe

        Thanks Leela! Yes, I agree with you, it would be great if more people took the time to find out about their neighbours in the same city. We had such fun when we “went to India” and were really touched by everyone’s generosity. I guess they were pretty happy we were open and interested.

    21. pa[u]

      Great trip!!!
      I love indian sweets!!!
      My Mother’s Sari is a lovely book! I live in India and I bought this book for my daughter who will soon be 2 years old and who arrived here only four months.

      • Zoe

        Thanks pa[u], I too love Indian sweets, but am the only one in the house who does so I daren’t buy a box as they will all make their way into my tummy in the end!

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